IMSA and Michelin are working to reduce tire allocations in various classes, with a few “small adjustments” in the pipeline for 2020, according to Michelin North America motorsport technical director Ken Payne.
Michelin, which took over as the Official Tire of IMSA this year, has been working with the sanctioning body on cost-savings measures for teams, which could also open up a strategic element to WeatherTech SportsCar Championship weekends.
This weekend’s season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans allows DPi, LMP2 and GTLM teams to utilize up to 24 sets of Michelin tires, with GTD teams limited to 20 sets of the Pilot Sport S9M commercial tire.
A typical two-hour and 40-minute race weekend, for instance, currently sees ten sets and eight sets of tires, respectively.
Those numbers could be slightly adjusted for next year, according to Payne, who stressed that the process will be taken in “incremental steps” in the coming years.
“It is very much something that both Michelin and IMSA are agreeing on, but it is very definitely an evolutionary process rather than a revolutionary process,” Payne told Sportscar365.
“We made incremental steps to start this year racing on the tires you qualify on in all the classes. We introduced tire allocations for the Challenge classes. Those were steps in that direction.
“We may have a few small adjustments in those tire quantities for next year, but I don’t expect a really significant change in them.
“But as we understand the series better, what the competitors’ needs are, we’ll continue to work in partnership in them to evolve the tire allocations and quantities.”
IMSA Vice President of Competition Simon Hodgson added: “IMSA and Michelin have maintained an open dialogue on tire allocations from the outset of our expanded relationship coming into this season.
“As Ken stated, we will conduct a review after the season is over to determine if any adjustments are appropriate.
“Certainly, any reduction in tire allocation also would support our IMSA Green initiatives.”
Michelin Supportive of Separate Refueling, Tire Changes
Payne said Michelin has continued discussions with IMSA on pit stop regulations, with the French tire manufacturer historically in favor of traditional ACO-style separate refueling and tire changes, a practice that tends to place a priority on tires which are capable of more than one fuel stint.
This makes product development more challenging for Michelin, Payne says, but Michelin considers the approach worth considering as both an element of race strategy and as a contribution to the reduction of a given race event’s carbon footprint.
IMSA has allowed refueling and tire changes to happen simultaneously since the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am in 2014.
While the FIA World Endurance Championship has returned to its traditional format for 2019-20 after a season utilizing a similar procedure currently seen in IMSA, Payne said he would be “surprised” to see IMSA adopt separate refueling and driver changes for 2020, despite Michelin’s orientation in such a direction.
“Since day one of the merger, we have had discussions with our friends at IMSA about the topic,” Payne said. “It remains on the table. It comes up every year, and it’s fair. There are plusses and minuses to each approach.
“In the ALMS days we had that, and we were very much a proponent of that. Those kinds of things are on the table as potential natural drivers of reduced tire consumption and because it plays into the teams’ strategy.
“We really like to see is the tires become an integrated part of the teams’ strategies.”